ad info
   personal technology

 custom news
 Headline News brief
 daily almanac
 CNN networks
 CNN programs
 on-air transcripts
 news quiz

CNN Websites
 video on demand
 video archive
 audio on demand
 news email services
 free email accounts
 desktop headlines

 message boards





Set up your PC to edit video

For $150 to $400, you can buy video capture hardware that works with nearly any Pentium PC.

October 12, 1998
Web posted at 3:00 PM EDT

by Stan Miastkowski
  PC World home page
  FileWorld find free software fast
  Make your PC work harder with these tips
 Reviews & in-depth info at's desktop PC page's portable PC page's Windows software page's personal news page
  Questions about computers? Let's editors help you
  Subscribe to's free daily newsletter for computer geniuses(& newbies)
  Search in 12 languages
 News Radio
  Fusion audio primers
  Computerworld Minute

(IDG) -- Not long ago, editing videos on a PC meant splurging more than $1000 on video capture cards, not to mention buying high-end SCSI hard drives and the fastest PC you could afford. But now, for $150 to $400 you can buy video capture hardware that works with nearly any Pentium PC. Even better, most capture systems these days plug right into your PC's parallel port. You then plug your camcorder's video output cable into the capture device, connect a few other cables, install the video editing software that comes with the device, and you're ready to create your own video spectacular.

Video capture devices come in various flavors. The right one for you depends on what you want to do with the video after you capture it. Low-end products such as the $100 Play Snappy are designed primarily for capturing still photos from video; they're perfect for e-mailing photos over the Net or incorporating video into presentations. Snappy uses sophisticated technology to sharpen and improve the quality of the images. Higher-end products, such as FutureTel's $299 Video Sphinx Pro, capture high-quality video for use on Web pages or in more elaborate presentations.

But most people use video capture devices to edit video, add titles and fancy transitions, and record the finished product onto videotape. Reasonably priced products like the $229 Pinnacle Studio 400 (shown below in step 2) offer features that until recently appeared only in very expensive, PC-based video editors -- which despite their cost still lacked professional quality. A popular alternative is Iomega's $199 Buz, although this product doesn't plug into the parallel port and requires a special SCSI card with chips for processing video.

On the PC side, you'll need at least a Pentium-133 machine and 16MB of memory (32MB is preferable). You'll also need lots of free hard disk space, since compressed, captured video consumes about 2MB of storage space per minute.

Keep in mind that you'll need to hook up many cables to capture and edit video on a PC, but the results are worth it. Here's how to get your personal video editing system up and running. For best results, read all equipment instructions carefully and spend plenty of time experimenting and honing your editing skills.

1. Set up your parallel port

Video capture devices that hook up to your printer port require maximum port performance. Restart your PC, launch the BIOS setup utility (details vary by PC maker), and find the setting for the printer port; it's usually listed in the BIOS setup menu under "Integrated Peripherals" or some similar heading. Make sure that it's set for Extended Capabilities Port or ECP. Save the setting and reboot your PC. Once Windows is up, select Start, Programs, System Tools, Disk Defragmenter and defrag the drive you'll be saving your video on. Next, set up the video capture software. Most video capture boxes require you to install the software before you hook up the hardware. Read your manual and follow the directions.

2. Identify the connections

You need to connect four devices: PC, camcorder, video capture device (an example is shown), and VCR. All camcorders carry a standard video-out connector -- a single RCA jack, usually yellow, that works with a standard composite video cable. In most instances, they include a pair of RCA jacks (one red, one white), too, for audio out. Hi-8 camcorders come with an S-Video-out connector and cable, as well (see inset).

Camcorders also require a remote control mechanism. It may be an infrared connection, a tiny jack labeled LANC, or -- in the case of Panasonic camcorders -- a five-pin connector.

Video-out cables usually come with your camcorder; audio cables accompany your PC's sound card; and remote control cables are included with video capture hardware.

3. Hook up the hardware

Read your video capture box manual carefully, or run the video tutorial on the software installation CD-ROM (if one is included there). You'll need a fair amount of room to set everything up. Here's a typical approach:

Turn off your PC, and connect the video capture device to your PC's printer port and the AC adapter to the box. Connect one end of the main cable bundle that came with the box to your PC's serial port, and plug the other end into your camcorder's remote control jack. If you're using your camcorder's IR control, position the camera and the VCR next to each other, and make sure that the IR transceiver on the cable points toward both of them.

Next, connect a video cable (standard composite video or S-Video if your camcorder is so equipped) between your camcorder's video-out jack and the video-in jack of the video capture box. Attach a cable from the video-out jack of the capture box to the video input of your VCR.

Connect an audio cable from your camcorder's audio-out jack to the line input of the sound card on the back of your PC. Finally, attach an audio cable from the sound card's output to the VCR's audio input.

4. Calibrate your setup

Make sure that everything is hooked up correctly. Most video capture packages use a setup wizard to lead you through the necessary steps.

5. Start producing video

Procedures for capturing, editing, and writing the finished product to tape vary by maker but are usually easy.

For example, the Pinnacle Studio 400's software automatically creates a series of thumbnail sketches as you load the video from your camcorder. Editing can be a simple matter of dragging and dropping the thumbnails into the order you want. When you're done, the software sends the finished video to a tape in the VCR.

Stan Miastkowski is a PC World contributing editor. Photographs by Kevin Candland.

Latest Headlines

Today on CNN

Related stories:

Note: Pages will open in a new browser window Related sites:

External sites are not
endorsed by CNN Interactive.

Enter keyword(s)   go    help


Back to the top
© 2000 Cable News Network. All Rights Reserved.
Terms under which this service is provided to you.
Read our privacy guidelines.